2019 Leo Steen Saini Farms Chenin Blanc

2019 Leo Steen Saini Farms Chenin Blanc

¥3,410 (incl. tax)

The Saini family has been growing grapes in the Dry Creek and Alexander valleys for over 100 years. Their block of Chenin Blanc planted in 1982 is a rarity, given that so little of that Loire variety is left in California vineyards. (In the 1970s, it was far, far more widespread than Chardonnay!) These vines are dry-farmed in sandy soil, so yields are low and the fruit expresses pure flavors and freshness that gets lost in warmer sites. Leo Steen’s winemaking emphasizes the natural flavors of the fruit, too, aging the wine for just a few months in neutral French oak and allowing only a part to undergo malolactic fermentation. He describes it as a wine with “alluring weight and richness, a silky texture and subtle aromas of green pear, white pepper, Chamomile, and mint.” If your image of Chenin Blanc is a wine that’s semi-sweet, you’ll be in for a surprise: this Saini Chenin is bone dry and elegant.

Winery


Winery Description

Located in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, Leo Steen Wines is a 1,000 case winery owned by Leo Steen Hansen, a Danish-born winemaker who is passionate about single vineyard, dry Chenin Blanc – though he does produce a few barrels of Syrah, Grenache and Chardonnay as well. 

Founded in 2004, Leo Steen Wines is a point on Leo Hansen’s journey in food and wine that began in the kitchen of his father’s restaurant in Denmark, led him to explore the wine regions of Europe, and saw him become a sommelier, wine director and, finally, a maker of California wine. From the start, Hansen has eschewed making the expected Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Cab. Instead, he has been a key player in the nascent comeback of California Chenin Blanc, the elegant and versatile grape of the Loire Valley that once was more popular than Chardonnay in Napa and Sonoma but is now grown on less than 50 acres across the two counties.

Steen is the term used in South Africa for wines made of Chenin Blanc. It also happens to be Leo Hansen’s middle name. While charmed by the coincidence, his interest in the grape began while working as a sommelier in Healdsburg. He wished he could offer a food-friendly California wine that wouldn’t cost much but offered structure, elegance and acidity. As luck would have it, right around the time he began making his own wines, he was offered fruit from one of Sonoma County’s last Chenin Blanc vineyards, whose owners were ready to rip out the last remaining acres and plant Chardonnay. While not an overnight success, Hansen has continued to pursue making dry Chenin Blanc from forgotten or overlooked vineyards. In recent years, he’s been joined by a number of like-minded, often younger vintners, and sourcing fruit from good vineyards is getting harder.

Leo Steen Wines continues to make food-friendly wines that are fresh, elegant and affordable. Chenin Blanc is key to the mission, with three vineyard-designated wines: Saini in Dry Creek, Jurassic in Santa Barbara and Peabody in Mendocino. All three vineyards were planted in the early eighties and are dry-farmed, so yields are low. As for winemaking, Leo Hansen works with natural yeasts and limits oak aging and alcohol levels. Syrah, Grenache and Chardonnay round out the portfolio. About vineyards, Leo Hansen has said, “What thrills and inspires me as a winemaker are vineyards that are rich in character, sites that translate into expressive and enthralling wines that give pleasure, but also make you think. Ultimately, making wines that let the vineyards speak is not enough—a vineyard needs to have something worthwhile to say.”

About this Wine


Country USA
Region California
Appellation(s) Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma)
Winery Leo Steen
Vintage 2019
Color White
Varietal(s) Chenin Blanc
Closure Cork
Volume 750ml
Bottle Size 8.5 x 29.5
Case Size 33.5 x 26.0 x 30.5
Alcohol 13.5%
Product Code LS19CN
UPC 798304379341
MLF 65%

Owning & Enjoying


Tasting notes

89 points – Wine Spectator.

Green pear, yellow apples, chamomile and white flowers precede lively citrus, orchard fruit, mineral, spice and almond notes. The texture is juicy, a touch creamy and nicely rounded.

Production


Vinification

Lightly-crushed grapes were given a couple of hours of skin contact prior to pressing and fermentation on natural yeasts in stainless steel. It was aged five months in 85% neutral French oak and 15% concrete egg with only 50% going through malolactic fermentation.

Review this Wine